Throughout the relationship I didn’t really understand exactly how badly I was being treated – I mean, I knew I was being treated poorly but I didn’t for a minute think it would fall under the category of domestic abuse. In my naivety I had always associated the term domestic abuse with the stereotypical ‘battered wife’ but it is so much more than that. Domestic abuse can occur in any relationship with either partner falling victim, and either partner can be the perpetrator. After the first incident that resulted in police being present, coming into my home, telling me I was a victim I started to have my eyes opened to how deep domestic abuse can run and the huge scope that domestic abuse holds.
I know that if it wasn’t for police officers coming to my home that day and literally spelling out what was going on I’ve no doubt that I would have stayed stuck in that same situation so much longer than I did. Having said that, getting out was no clean cut process either. There were plenty of occasions that I ignored advice and thought it would be a better idea to stop all police involvement altogether. Why? Well, I was scared of him, I felt guilty for getting him into trouble, I thought we could work things out now he’d realised what he was doing to me, you name it and I stayed because of it.
So what exactly did my journey of police involvement look like? The first time police were called was actually on my 23rd Birthday in early January. The date that the case was heard in criminal court was 23rd July. Within those seven months there was a lot of back and forth between the police and myself. A rough timeline of events would be something like this;
- 2nd January police were called to my home following an incident. This is the first time I’d heard the term domestic abuse. The police stayed for around six hours taking my statement and filling out what they call a CAVA log. The statement I gave was used as the base of my complaint against my ex.
- Throughout January the police were called on two more occasions due to my his abuse becoming more intimidating, verbal, shouting, scary. The result was him being arrested and released on bail with the conditions of not to contact me directly it had to be via a solicitor, for him not to visit our home address, for him not to be in the street of our home address. My part in this was to call the police whenever he was breaking bail conditions – if it was just text messages etc then keep a log and report via 101, if he was showing up at our home I was to dial 999.
- Early February we resumed the relationship and I withdrew the statement I had made against him. This resulted in the charges being dropped as without my statement the police didn’t have sufficient evidence to present to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). By doing this I felt I had burned another bridge leading me out of the relationship – I was now stuck with my decision.
- Late February the abuse had become very intense. With one incident involving my Son and I resulting in me having no choice but to call the police for help. My ex was arrested and again, given the same bail conditions. My role was to again, call the police and keep a log of abuse. My home was now put on Rapid Response – so any time I needed assistance immediately at my home address, the police had to attend ASAP. The incident was also referred to Child Protection Services due to my infant Son being involved.
- From late February to the court date in July police attended my home almost daily due to my ex coming to my home so regularly. Every time the police were called out they took more details and instead of the complaint now being mine, it was the CPS pressing charges. The police had to collect the evidence to build a case against him which is why they encouraged me to keep on telling them whenever he got into contact with me, no matter how minor the contact was. This meant that if I were to resume the relationship or withdraw my involvement for any other reason – the CPS still had a case to take to court.
- The Child Protection Services also came out to visit to see if there was anything they could do to aid me in safeguarding our Son. They made it abundantly clear that if the relationship was to resume, I would not be acting within the best interest of our Son’s safety so they would, in this case, then step in to safeguard our Son – this was a very clear cut choice for me.
- I was also referred to Women’s Aid by Child Protection Services. They had two advocates come out to visit me at home. They arranged for a more secure front door to be fitted on my house. They also fitted a security light outside the front of the house.
At times I felt silly for mithering police constantly. At times he would try and make me feel as though I would be getting into trouble for ‘wasting police time’. There was a point when I second guessed whether the police would help due to the fact I’d withdrawn my statement the first time. Throughout the whole process the police were very understanding. They also became very frustrated with the fact that I would call them whenever my ex turned up outside my home but would disappear before they caught him there, but I was never once made to feel like a nuisance because of it.
The amount of help I also gained from outside agencies as a result of police involvement also helped to cement how serious my situation had become. As soon as the safeguarding of my Son became a focal point, that really drove home that I needed to keep a level head and not let the fear, or guilt, or embarrassment get in the way of doing one of the very primary jobs I should have been doing as a mother.
The detail above is just a rough outline of what I had to endure. The mental toll this process took on me was heavy. The constant feeling of being watched or waiting for the next contact or not knowing what he would do next had a very negative effect on my mental health. However, I didn’t reach out for help that was ‘for me’ because I feared that it would somehow be used in court to make me appear unstable or unable to cope. My worst nightmare was going through the whole process to get away from him and the end result was a slap in the face.
I wanted to share this as I know on average, it takes women seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship, before they actually manage to leave for good. Before police involvement we had been in what anybody would call an on/off relationship, so I couldn’t say how many attempts exactly it took me to leave. The main point is I left. I left with the help of the people that I thought wouldn’t help because I had ‘messed up’ previously. I hope in sharing my experience of detailing how I felt more and more stuck to my ex the more times I went back it would still give people hope that they can leave, even if they have tried to so many times before. Yes it is scary, frightening in fact, it is difficult and it does take a huge toll mentally and emotionally; but the toll you pay for staying would be so much higher. So if it takes one attempt or ten, or more, don’t ever be too scared to stop trying. It is possible to leave, and even more so to stay gone.